SOUTH SHROPSHIRE LOCAL GROUP

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15th September 2018 - Severn Valley Country Park

    

Photos of Bob, Pam and friend and The River Severn.: Gail Ellis.

  (Suggestions for a caption for the first photo on a postcard please! No prizes.)

 

On the 15th September, we visited Severn Valley Country Park at Alveley near Bridgnorth. We were again lucky with the weather as it was a beautiful late summer day. Robins were singing their autumn song, with swallows and martins gathering in the sky above. Severn Valley is run by Shropshire Council’s Ed Andrews and his team of volunteers. It is ‘maturing nicely’ from a coal mining area to a riverside wildlife park with various habitats to explore. It also is situated next to Severn Valley Railway which provided great excitement for some of the members.
 
September is usually a quite time for birds, but Clive was first to notice the peregrine flying over, we also saw a kingfisher from the bridge over the river. Ducks were difficult to be positive about as in eclipse. We presumed they were mallards but gadwall are common on the Severn. Ron noticed the goosanders, which we expected to see. The sun brought out green veined and red admiral butterflies and common darter dragonflies. There were plenty of interesting plants for those keen on botany to study and Bob explained the different types of fish: chubb, dace and rudd in the river and carp in the pond.
 
There are two comfortable hides and from the second we saw a heron and a sparrowhawk. The park has a visitor centre with all facilities and also provides home cooked lunches which most of us enjoyed while overlooking the park and River.
 
Carol Wood
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16th June 2018 - The Onny River

          

Photos of dipper and Onny banks: Bob Milward

 

A group of enthusiastic birders met in the Onny Trail car park. First to arrive, Clive saw a red legged partridge. We got off to a lively start with a steam train passing through just before 10 and a chance to admire a few moths which Isabel had brought along by way of celebrating National Moth night.

 Poplar Hawkmoth. Photo courtesy of Isabel Carter

The weather was overcast but stayed dry. The walk followed the route of the Onny, mostly along the geology trail. It includes open farmland, wooded areas and two large pools/swampy areas – and obviously the beautiful course of the Onny. Footbridges allowed some great views up and down the river. We saw or heard a good variety of the more common birds: blackbird, robin, crow, wood pigeon, greenfinch and bullfinch, chaffinch, both song and mistle thrush, and dunnock. Wrens were very vocal throughout and we saw four groups of fledgling blue tits. Flying overhead were seen buzzard, grey heron and a red kite as we left the car park. There were good views of swallows and large numbers of house martin. Sand martin were looked for in vain at a site where they had a good nesting area a few years back but no conclusive sightings alas.  Water birds were most obliging, including mallard and moorhen and we had several really good views of grey wagtail and dipper (one of which had been ringed twice). No otters or kingfisher, but we did see otter spraint in three places, confirming their presence, given that after the torrential rain a few weeks back, this had to be more recent. In the wooded areas adjacent to the river, we heard or saw jackdaw (and nest site), a lovely view of a green woodpecker, long tailed tits, jay, tree creeper, great tit, and blackcap.

As we returned back to the car park, we finally heard chiffchaff and there were house sparrows chirping away by the nearby house.  In total 32 species and a lovely walk, with a few interesting flowers and insects noted along the way too. 

We finished with a very good lunch in the nearby Plough Inn, Wistanstow, recently refurbished by its young manager. 

Isabel Carter

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26th May 2018 - Rectory Wood nest box survey

Photo: Carol Wood

On a Saturday morning seven members of our local group, plus Janet Martin of Church Stretton Town Council, surveyed the nest boxes in Rectory Wood. Six of the boxes were being used by either great tits or blue tits, leaving just one unoccupied. The owl box did not appear to be inhabited. We also recorded many other birds, either by sight or sound. 

Though a cloudy morning, it remained dry and was quite an enjoyable experience  and I am sure our efforts will be appreciated by the Council. We adjourned, as usual, for coffee and cake - well deserved I think. 

Carol

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19th May 2018 - Bodenham Lake, Herefordshire

 

Twelve of us met for our visit to this attractive lake, which lies below Dinmore Hill to the east of the A49, about halfway between Leominster and Hereford. There are two public hides, each at the end of a pleasant and varied walk through meadows, orchards and woodland, taking in the banks of the river Lugg along the way on the southern side of the lake. Both walks begin at the spacious car park (free at the time of writing, and provided with an information board and nearby picnic tables, but no loos). It isn't possible to walk right around the lake as the western end is closed for the protection of the abundant wildlife there.

Our first walk along the northern edge took us along a lane alive with birdsong - wren, chaffinch, blackbird, chiffchaff, robin and blackcap were easily identified. Branching out into the open meadow we heard a green woodpecker, song thrush and (we think!) a garden warbler. There were plenty of orange tip and green-veined white butterflies enjoying the brief bursts of sunshine, along with common blue damsel flies and glittering metallic 'beautiful' demoiselles. A short walk through trees brought us to the first hide with views right across the lake, unfortunately against the sun, so apart from the obvious coots, mallards and a lone heron it was difficult to identify the distant birds. Was that a pochard out on the water? We headed back to the car park, this time taking a slight diversion through two adjacent orchards which will definitely be worth visiting again in autumn.

The second, longer walk to the southern hide passes through an open area that used to have buildings on it but is now heavily overgrown. Great spotted woodpecker, bullfinch, pied wagtail and common blue butterfly were soon added to our list, followed later by greylag geese, a willow warbler and brimstone butterfles. We followed the path through more woodland, past the back of Bodenham church and over a broad grassy area with the Lugg on one side and the lake on the other. This hide is close to the water's edge and a dark shape swimming by was tentatively identified as a pike. Breeding otters have been reported here but sadly weren't visible at this time of day. A kingfisher flashed by in true "blink and you've missed it" fashion. The bird we though might be a pochard was found again and this time it was possible to pick out all the identifying features - to our delight it turned out to be a female goldeneye, hanging around rather late in the season.

It was a very satisfying morning, during which thirty-four bird species were seen or heard, as well as at least four types of butterfly and two damsel flies, and a fish.

Thank you to Keith for keeping records, and to all the members/friends who turned up despite the competing attractions of the Royal Wedding and preparations for the Cup Final!

Chris Bateman

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21st April 2018 - Devereux Wootton Farm

  

Photos: Gail Ellis

 

This is a 500 acre productive working farm in Herefordshire, which has concentrated on friendliness to wildlife. We were given a guided tour by Patrick Wrixon, the owner, to see how this was being achieved. The walk had something of interest for us all, including tree experts, botanists and birdwatchers.  We were also told about “The Cart Shed”, a charity run at the farm, which helps people at difficult times of life. It used the power and peace of nature to give them dignity, confidence and purpose.
 
It was surprising how many birds we observed in the various habitats. Especially interesting were the common and lesser whitethroats which were singing. We all had a lovely day at this farm and enjoyed the hospitality. Thanks go to the Wrixon family.
 
David Bird
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28th April - Dawn Chorus Walk, Powkesmore Wood, Ditton Priors 

 

Twelve of us started at 5.30 am on a damp cold Saturday morning. We had in fact missed the actual dawn chorus as that happened about 5am. I thought that dawn and sunrise were more or less the same but they are not!!!

Nevertheless we heard or saw about 30 different species staring with a cuckoo and a tawny owl at the same time while it was still dark. We did hear lots of the curlew as well as the expected tits, blackbirds, robins etc but sadly no lapwings.

The warblers were quiet apart from a chiffchaff and willow warbler and I wonder if it was too cold for them yet.

We saw the flash of a yellow hammer but the best performance was from a tree pipit that sang and offered a parachuting display.

All seemed to enjoy the walk and especially the full English breakfast and chat at the Willow Cafe afterwards.

Trish Shotton

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17 March 2018 - Brandhill Gutter

 

 

Photo: Carol Wood

An eleventh-hour decision was taken to cancel this walk as the ground was covered in snow, the leaders were stranded in their home and the forecast for the rest of the day was pretty dire. Despite this three intrepid birders turned up at the start point and managed a brief walk around the area, before retiring to the shelter of the Ludlow Kitchen for lunch and de-briefing. Most bird species had had the sense to stay under cover but lots of tits, buzzards, chaffinches, thrushes and even red kite were seen, as well as golden saxifrage and elf-cap fungus. This normally lovely walk will be arranged again in better weather conditions.

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17 February 2018 - Ellesmere Lakes and Wood Lane

 

    

Photos: Gail Ellis

 

Sixteen of us met at The Boathouse, a Shropshire Wildlife Trusts site well know for the heronry which is situated on the island in the mere. This was the first day of their Heron Watch.

We started with drinks, while watching the monitor showing the herons nest building and incubating. Some of us went onto the terrace, where Trevor Weale confirmed a redpoll for the group gathered there.
Then, as the sun appeared, we set off along the waterside path. There were plenty of waterbirds on the mere and woodland birds along the tree-lined walk and the count soon increased.
 
Birds here are used to people and dogs and are quite confiding. At the moment the trees are leafless, and we had good views of most of the tit family and nuthatches and tree creepers. On the mere were mallard. golden eye, tufted duck, coot, moorhen and goosander. In flight were black-headed, lesser black-backed and common gulls. Also present were the usual Canada and greylag geese, plus various strange mixes of these two.
 
Following lunch we headed off to Wood Lane, a nearby reserve with comfortable hides. There must have been over eighty lapwings in flight and also pochard, oyster catcher and shell duck present. I think for most of us the highlight of the visit was the kingfisher. He had caught a rather large fish and it took him a long time to deal with it. A unique opportunity to see their behaviour.

Thanks to everyone for coming and especially to Richard for his help with the technology!

Carol Wood

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27 January - BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH EVENT

We went along to promote the BGBW as part of the Feather and Flight event at the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms. Unfortunately the weather was bad enough to deter most birds from visiting the feeding station set up in the butterfly garden on behalf of the group so the telescopes we'd brought with us were somewhat redundant! Despite this the day was a huge success and there were lots of visitors to our RSPB stand. A birdsong computer-presentation quiz created by John Arnfield proved especially popular. Other wildlife-related stands, displays of live owls and birds of prey, and activities for children all contributed to the day and a good time was had by all!

 

       

Photos: Carol Wood

 

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Report: Nest-box inspection and cleaning at Rectory Wood, Saturday 20th Jan

 

Thanks to the members of the Group who came out on Saturday morning, despite the snow, mud and brambles, to clean out the nest boxes at Rectory Wood. Special thanks go to Bob, whose rock climbing skills were amazing.
 
We hope to monitor the boxes in April to see which are being used and again in May, when most of the migrants will have returned.

Looking forward to better weather for these visits.

Carol

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16 December - Along the Onny

 

Photo: Chris Bateman

 

A group of 8 intrepid birders stepped out from the Discovery Centre on an icy December morning.  There were lots of noisy jackdaws around the car park, a few blue tits, a dunnock and a crow.

As we walked towards the river we spotted a blackbird and a chaffinch.  A buzzard was sitting in the top of one of the tall trees and a charm of goldfinches chattered in the orchard.  We also saw a robin, a great tit, a flock of long-tailed tits and a wood pigeon or two.  A wren snuffled around the leaves at the edge of a small stream.

The river Onny itself was full, fast and furious – too fast for water birds.  We did, however, see a couple of mallard flying over.  A diversion towards the pool again failed to offer views of waterfowl since it was completely frozen. Looking towards the road we caught sight of a kestrel hovering and then dropping into the trees. 

Two of the group saw a great spotted woodpecker as we returned to the banks of the Onny. Here we were pleased to watch a flock of siskins hopping from branch to branch in the alders. As we headed up towards the A49 a flashing white rump signalled a bullfinch.

By the road to Stokesay Castle there were several noisy house sparrows.  Looking over the fields we picked out two grey herons and a trio of very pale-feathered buzzards while a single magpie flew past. There was a greenfinch in one of the churchyard trees and a collared dove flew by.

The main bulk of Stokesay Pool was frozen.  One pied wagtail was heard and then seen flying over.  On the far bank a small group of song thrushes pecked in the damp grass.

It was an enjoyable leisurely walk and amassed 25 species.

 

Pat Fairweather

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18 November - Venus Pool

Photo: Chris Bateman

 

After an unpromising forecast and a rainy journey the skies finally cleared in time for the start of our walk. David John began by giving an interesting run-down of the history of the site to the assembled multitude in the car park (eighteen plus!) As there were so many of us we made the usual decision to split into two groups: one visiting the hides and the other following the path through the field and over the causeway, swapping over halfway through the morning. There were plenty of the usual water birds and winter visitors visible from the main hide, and one group was particularly rewarded with excellent views of a kingfisher. The woodland hide area seemed much quieter than normal, with various species of tit present but not much else - except for a very welcome great spotted woodpecker on the peanut feeder.  The days when flocks of tree sparrows would appear there seem long gone.

The field path yielded good views of yellowhammers and reed buntings along the hedge line, and someone was lucky enough to spot a brambling here. There seemed to be plenty of winter thrushes around in the distance making the most of the available berries. A pair of gadwall and several tufted ducks were seen swimming on the second lake beyond the causeway. From the hide on the far side of the main lake we enjoyed watching a couple reed buntings performing their ablutions in a large puddle. 

We rounded off the trip in our usual fashion by enjoying a relaxing lunch in a nearby hostelry, and comparing notes on the morning's count - 38 for one group, 43 for the other, making an impressive total cross-referenced count of 48 species.

Chaffinch, Cormorant, Canada Goose, Blackbird, Magpie, Sparrowhawk, Long-tailed Tit, Mute Swan, Bluetit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Nuthatch, Snipe, Fieldfare, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Moorhen, Yellowhammer, Lapwing, Little Grebe, Redwing, Green Woodpecker, Great Crested Grebe, Reed Bunting, Wigeon, Shoveller, Wood Pigeon, Mallard, Goldfinch, Teal, Tufted Duck, Little Egret, Gadwall, Grey Heron, Pied Wagtail, Carrion Crow, Wren, Jay, Black-headed Gull, Pheasant, Coot, Kingfisher, Brambling, Starling, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Greylag Goose.

Chris Bateman and David John

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15 April - Whixall Moss

(Apologies for late inclusion - Ed.)

 

Photo: Chris Bateman

A group of 15 gathered at Morris's Bridge car park on a sunny but breezy day for a walk around Fenn's and Whixall Moss. This is Britain's third largest raised bog and is an unique habitat in Shropshire.

We started our walk along the canal and checked out the flooded fields opposite. Apart from some teal and Canada geese we did see two waders with a distinct sandpiper appearance, one of which was very pale - however they were too far even for binoculars for a proper identification. There had been reports of a wood sandpiper  on the fields just prior to our walk, could it have been? Willow warblers and chiff chaffs sang constantly with an occasional blackcap. Further along we saw a greater spotted woodpecker and had a quick view of a treecreeper. While we were having a coffee stop a blackcap was observed in a nearby tree; in a few weeks the leaf coverage would be too dense. At this point we entered the Moss proper and we could see a kestrel hovering nearby and buzzards circling in the thermals. The breeze kept some of the smaller birds down but male reed buntings were singing on top of  grasses, with wrens darting between shrubs. Further inland where there are larger pools black headed gull were swooping and screaming around. It's always worth checking gulls out as male hen harriers sometimes appear on the moss but that is usually in the winter months. The smaller pools are ideal habitat for dragonflies and in a few weeks these would be emerging as adults, together with the arrival of hobbies that predate on them.

Bird count includes: swallow, robin, canada goose, wood pigeon, goldfinch, carrion crow, chiffchaff, wren, lapwing, pheasant, buzzard, magpie, blackbird, song thrush, teal, black-headed gull, pied wagtail, moorhen, coot, sandpiper(?), willow warbler, jackdaw, chaffinch, goldcrest, mallard, tree creeper, gt spotted woodpecker, blackcap, kestrel, jay, reed bunting, curlew, marsh
harrier(?), stock dove, nuthatch.
35 species.

Clive Cooke

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21 October - Whitcliffe Common, Ludlow 

 

Photo: Chris Bateman (taken in better weather!)

Owing to an appalling weather forecast and boggy conditions underfoot we decided to shorten the walk and didn't expect many people to make it to the meeting point - in fact it turned out to be successful as a dozen keen people turned up! Instead of the planned route up into Mortimer Forest we took a gentle stroll down to the river and along the Breadwalk, ending up at Ludford Bridge. All in all we saw 20 species of birds: Crow, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit (lots of these delightful little birds), Wood Pigeon, Great Tit, Swan, Mallard, Lesser Black Back Gull, Male Goosander, Moorhen, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch (heard), Blackbird, Grey Wagtail, Goldfinch, Robin, Wren, Starling and, luckily, the Kingfisher(!). We all quite happily fell into the Wheatsheaf Pub next to a roaring fire where we were served an early lunch and engaged in a lively discussion. Good time had by all.

Gail Ellis

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16 September - Stiperstones

 

 

 

10.00am at the Bog car park and 13 people have assembled on a bright but cool morning. On the top of a tree are 2 mistle thrushes and circling overhead, a buzzard. As we start to explore the bushes around the car park, a woodpigeon, 2 ravens and a jackdaw pass overhead and a great tit is sitting in a fir tree. It is surprisingly quiet with nothing about around the pond and it is starting to drizzle so we don waterproofs and head off up the field to the hairpin bend. In the rowan trees there are 2 robins and a chaffinch singing and a carrion crow flies over. As we head up the path towards Pennerley Reservoir we spot more robins and a stonechat sitting on a fencepost, plus a swallow flying low over the field and a kestrel gliding up towards the Devil’s Chair. Despite all the cloud, long distance visibility is very good and Cader Idris can clearly be seen on the horizon. At the reservoir there are a couple of rabbits in the field and 3 house sparrows sitting on the fence, a siskin in a bush and at the nearby white cottage a blue tit and a great spotted woodpecker. We have a coffee break for 10 minutes and I notice there are quite a few small birds on the fence around the reservoir so I investigate, and find a couple of female stonechats and also a number of meadow pipits. Walking down past the cottage garden we see a goldfinch, a greenfinch, a blackbird and a dunnock, and at the side of the path a red admiral. Turning left onto the lower path a wren is in the hedge as we approach the stables and a magpie is in the field. We stop by the pond where there are sometimes mallards and moorhens but no sign today. We do see a collared dove and hear a bullfinch, and as we continue along the path back to the car park we see a couple of female bullfinches. A fairly quiet day, perhaps due to the cloudy and occasionally damp weather, with the most numerous bird being robins which we see or hear all around the walk, so we have to settle for 24 species.

It is now time for lunch so we visit the Bog Visitor Centre where they kindly allow us to eat our sandwiches if we buy a drink but some of us can’t resist their delicious cakes and scones as well.

Trevor Halsey

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